From Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central star to dating Ariana Grande to being the posterboy for a (positive) phenomenon called BDE, Pete Davidson’s life seemed a waking dream to his primarily teenage male audience. That is, until Ariana broke up with him and he became a #canceled social pariah.
In his cleverly named Netflix standup routine “Alive from New York,” he still wears a metaphorical neck brace for said social whiplash and everyone knows it. Addressing it, especially the Ariana situation and its repercussions, as maturely as one may expect from the notoriously lackadaisical celebrity is among the highlights of his set. His content is consistently funny. His delivery is not consistently funny.
More so than popular performance media with controlled environments, stand-up comedy is directly impacted by the audience’s reactions and behavior. Hecklers also run rampant and often go unchecked. A duty of the comedian therefore is to gauge their audience’s reactions to certain jokes and capitalize on what they believe will elicit lots of laughs.
Pete Davidson made a name for himself performing stand-up since the age of 17. That experience unfortunately does not accompany him on stage into the intimate setting of “Alive from New York” where audience reactions appear to faze him.
He comes out the gate swinging with a funny personal anecdote with previously praised comedian Louis C.K. and trails off when audience reactions lessen in response to stigmatized material.
The way he awkwardly delivers a few lines or quietly giggles during silences, viewers may initially suspect Pete Davidson is drunk and stumbling while performing his set. In actuality, as he later hints, he is more likely on mushrooms.
His conversational delivery could certainly be intentional, but there is no shortage of filler words and repeated phrases that likely extend the special by ten minutes. It can absolutely be considered a conversational routine if that conversation occurs during a roller coaster of a blind date.
Pete Davidson certainly garners a particular loyal audience, though his media exposure has left him in a social purgatory that has split the world on his existence.
One camp loves his unique brand of nonchalant yet confident delivery of dark but usually relatable material. Another camp, unfortunately comprising several of his fellow SNL stars, finds him alien and more a joke than joke craftsman.
It appears a fraction of the live audience subscribes to the latter camp, which didn’t go unnoticed by Davidson as it affected his confidence in the middle portion of his act. Both he and his audience wake up and enjoy themselves again when he transitions into comically addressing the Ariana Grande kerfuffle which absolutely quenched the drama hounds surrounding the matter.